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'Nexus Management' in EU External Relations after Lisbon: More Coherence at Last?

Mark Furness, Stefan Gänzle

In order to turn the European Union into a more influential and effective actor on the global stage, the Lisbon Treaty sought to increase coherence across the different policy areas that make up the EU's foreign relations. Through substantial reform of the foreign relations apparatus, it has pursued a twofold goal: first to improve actor coherence through resolving collective action challenges among EU-level bureaucracies and between the EU-level and member states; and second to enhance the coherence of EU foreign policies. This paper asks whether these reforms have triggered greater coherence at both the actor and policy level. We focus on two key policy nexus areas that reflect the changing global context: the interfaces of security and development and trade and development. Coherence-focused changes at the actor-level include the establishment of the EEAS, the 'remodelling' of the HR/VP, reforms to the Commission directorates-general responsible for external policies, and the 'empowerment' of the European Parliament in matters of external relations, in particular trade policy. Policy innovations have included a string of 'comprehensive', 'joined-up', and 'whole-of-EU' approaches. Drawing mainly from policy documents and interviews with officials from various bodies of the EU foreign relations bureaucracy, this contribution argues that since the Lisbon Treaty the EU has improved actor coherence, but it still lacks the strategic direction that would be provided by a clear prioritisation of global policy objectives. Without clear strategic direction, improving actor coherence can only make a marginal impact on policy coherence.

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